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Microsoft: World's first fully automated DNA data storage system

Microsoft: World's first fully automated DNA data storage system

Microsoft has unveiled an automated DNA storage and retrieval system that could one day replace optical-storage systems like Facebook's Blue-ray disc-based cold storage. Microsoft believes synthetic DNA could be the next big leap in long-term data storage, with just one gram of DNA capable of storing 215 petabytes of data for up to 2,000 years. If it pans out, the technology could significantly reduce the space required to store the world's growing data.

Researchers at Microsoft and the late Microsoft founder Paul Allen's school of computing science at the University of Washington has built a system of liquids, tubes, syringes, and electronics around a benchtop to deliver the world's first automated DNA storage device.

Using the proof-of-concept DNA storage device, the researchers demonstrated its write and read capabilities by encoding the word 'hello' in snippets of DNA and converting it back to data. The bench-top unit cost around $10,000 but the researchers believe it could be built in low-volumes for a third of the cost by cutting out sensors and actuators.

The unit, described in Nature, consists of computers with encoding and decoding software that translate digital ones and zeros into DNA's four bases: A, C, T, G. There's also a DNA synthesis module and a DNA preparation and sequencing module, between which sits a vessel where DNA is stored.

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